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Old Growth Western Juniper

Long Terminal Leaders in some Old Growth Juniper

Characteristics of old growth juniper from page 49, section 2.4.4, Sage Steppe Restoration FEIS, April 2008.

“Characteristics of old growth juniper would include: (1) Rounded or unsymmetrical tops that may be sparse and contain dead limbs. (2) Deeply furrowed, fibrous bark on the trunk that is reddish in color. (3) Branches near the base of the tree that may be very large and covered with fruticose lichens. (4) Limited terminal leader growth on branches in the upper 25% of the canopy.

It is important to note that a juniper tree needs to have only one of the characteristics listed above to be classified as an old growth juniper. Some agency personnel in charge of juniper removal projects have told us that they cut down all juniper with “long growth leaders” since “old juniper are not actively growing”. Here are some pictures of old growth juniper with long terminal leaders in the upper 25% of the canopy. Of course, these old trees also exhibit other old growth characteristics .

The five images above are of a single old growth juniper. This old tree exhibits an asymmetrical top with dead limbs, deeply furrowed, fibrous bark and large limbs at the base with yellow fruticose lichen, all characteristics of an old growth juniper. This year, 2015, it also has very long terminal leaders in its upper canopy. If this tree was in a Forest Service juniper removal project, because of the long growth leaders, it might erroneously be subject to cutting.

The following images are grouped in pairs horizontally. Both images in a pair are of the same old growth juniper that just happens to have long growth leaders in 2015. Within a pair of images, the left image shows the old growth characteristics of the tree while the right image shows the long growth leaders in the upper 25% of the canopy from the same old tree.

The two federal agencies in Northern California that manage our public lands, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, both state in their juniper removal project documents that juniper with old growth characteristics will be preserved. These images show that many juniper trees with long growth leaders in the top 25% of the canopy are old growth juniper if they have at least one old growth characteristic and should be preserved during juniper removal projects.